A new European air-to-air refuelling (AAR) - training to provide realistic scenarios within a modern air combat environment is on the way
In the political declaration on AAR, March 2012, Ministries of Defense stated that AAR capabilities should be developed in Europe as a matter of priority.
The European Defence Agency (EDA) clearly identified four major AAR work-strands to alleviate the shortfall. One of these measures, the "Optimization of existing Assets and Organizations" EATC is in lead.
Before that, on 26th of October 2012, the first meeting of a new EATC working group under the abbreviation of “MRTT/AAR OEWG” started with 25 participants of several nations at Eindhoven Air Base.
During the first days of Operation Unified Protector (OUP), it was noticed that AAR tanker crews and tanker planners had to operate within scenarios they were not exposed to during regular peacetime aerial refuelling operations. One of the “lessons learned” was the lack of dedicated AAR focused exercises - where both tanker and logistics crews can familiarize with explicit scenarios, but also - and more importantly - keep them proficient in areas others than practiced during daily AAR operations.
Also there was a need identified to build up knowledgement of all the different characteristics/specificities of used European tankers in general.
Cause and effect
Against this background and in close coordination with either the Dutch Frisian Flag (FF) exercise and Participating Nations’ (PN) AAR experts on the other hand, the EATC will organize dedicated AAR training opportunities in support of the FF exercise 2014. For the reason that interoperability is a prominent key factor in the EDA AAR initiative, the EATC encourages other air forces to join with their tanker capabilities to participate in this training event - as it will be an excellent opportunity within Europe to operate with dedicated AAR scenarios embedded in a highly recognized fighter exercise. At this moment the Netherlands (KDC-10), Germany (A310) and Italy (KC-767) agreed on sending their tankers to participate.
Considering Eindhoven Air Base as ideal for tankers to participate in the FF exercise, the Netherlands approved to use this airfield as a Tanker Forward Operating Base (FOB) during the FF exercise period, 31 March - 11 April 2014.
This FOB has several advantages, e.g. by providing multiple cross-servicing training opportunities and a local AAR AOC (Air Operations Center), enabling joint tanker crew briefing premises and therewith an overall easy exchange of tanker crew training & operational experience.
Picture above by Marc Thoene
Read more about AAR competence here.